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Two Years Ago: Waking Up in the Aftermath of the Derecho Storm

Posted 11:48 a.m.

Two years ago today, many of us woke up to no power, spotty cellphone service, 9-1-1 problems, downed trees and a host of other complications as the result of a derecho storm.

broken power line

Broken power lines in Fairfax County as a result of the derecho storm in 2012.

We continue to talk about the derecho storm two years later as it impacted many aspects of our emergency preparedness and response efforts. And we continue to conduct exercise drills so we’re better prepared:

We are preparing for the next weather event or emergency:

What preparations have you made?

We Need Everyone to Prepare

During widespread events such as the derecho, the government alone can’t respond immediately to long power outages, downed trees, hurricanes or people stuck in transit, especially across a county that’s 400 square miles.

To help, we’ve developed 30 easy ways for you to prepare, including:

  • Having cash and medicine on hand
  • Determining how much water you need
  • Two ways to get out of your home, workplace or faith community
  • Digital preparedness

Digital Preparedness

Digital preparedness is increasingly important and after the derecho, power and cell service were interrupted. The Virginia Department of Emergency Management created this quick visual to help us think about digital preparedness:

digital preparedness tips

Our new Fairfax Alerts system is now available, too. Please sign up for this new system so you can be informed of weather alerts and other critical information.

A Word About 9-1-1

One of the major impacts from the derecho was the inability to call 9-1-1. In this video, Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova discusses some of the changes made with Verizon, the region’s 9-1-1 carrier.

Photos: Fairfax County Responds to Winter Storm Titan, March 3

Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova toured snow removal activities at critical county facilities.

Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova toured snow removal activities at critical county facilities.

Posted 2:30 p.m.

View Photo Gallery

VDOT: Travel Conditions Remain Hazardous; Stay Off Roads

Posted 12:40 p.m.

From our friends at the Virginia Department of Transportation:

The Virginia Department of Transportation continues to advise motorists to stay off roads in Northern Virginia today. Snow, sleet and refreeze throughout the afternoon will cause a wide range of road conditions. 4,000 trucks are making headway plowing interstates, major roads and neighborhood streets simultaneously.

“We urge drivers to stay off roads while conditions are still changing,” said Branco Vlacich, VDOT’s Northern Virginia district maintenance engineer. “It is imperative to the safety of drivers as well as our snow crews.”

On the roads:

  • Interstates are mostly clear and wet. Primary roads are partially clear with some lanes open, and many secondary roads remain snow-covered. Roads that appear to be bare pavement may become slick from sleet and refreeze.
  • If stranded, keep vehicle lights on and avoid getting out of your vehicle. Call #77 (Virginia State Police) who will dispatch VDOT Safety Service Patrol. Call 911 in case of an emergency.

In neighborhoods:

  • Residents can enter their address at www.vdotplows.org to see the status of plowing in their neighborhood and watch trucks as they travel their plow routes.
  • Crews will plow streets and sand hills, curves and intersections to provide traction. With this deep snow, roads will have an eight-to-ten foot path but not bare pavement.
  • Keep vehicles in driveways or on the odd-numbered side of the street to allow plows room to pass.
  • Wait until plow passes. When shoveling, leave the last few feet at the curb until the street is plowed. as the truck will push some snow back. Shovel to the right facing the road.

Stay informed:

Track VDOT Snow Plowing Efforts

Posted 12:19 p.m.

The Virginia Department of Transportation handles snow removal on most roads in Fairfax County. If you’re wondering about the status of plowing on major and secondary roads, check out VDOT’s snow plowing map.

VDOT Snow Removal Map

Avoid Contact Temporarily with Holmes Run Stream

Holmes Run Stream

Updated Oct. 21, 4:46 p.m.

County staff continue to work in the area to make the necessary repairs. The signs are still in effect. People are ignoring the signs and they are wading and fishing in the water. We can’t lift the ban until we get a heavy downpour; the water is still contaminated. We are getting more tests done tomorrow but the tests from last week indicate there is heavy fecal contamination. The new test results may come back at the end of this week. In the meantime, we are depending on Mother Nature to send us some rain and wash out the stream!

 

Posted at 1:45 p.m.

Due to a sanitary sewer line collapse, Fairfax County officials advise residents to avoid contact with Holmes Run Stream until further notice. In particular, residents should avoid the stream area from Columbia Pike to Dowden Terrace.

Untreated wastewater was released into the stream, causing a potential health hazard. However, county employees have stopped any further discharge of untreated wastewater from entering the stream.

The county will be conducting environmental tests to determine bacteria levels in the water.

The break took place on Sunday, just south of Columbia Pike, below 3800 Powell Lane. Crews are on site working to repair the collapsed 33 inch pipe.

The Holmes Run stream is part of the Cameron Run watershed.

For more information, call the Fairfax County Wastewater Collection Division, 703-323-1211 (24-hour), TTY 711.

8 Ways You Can Help With Snow Removal

Posted 2:15 p.m.

snow shovelingRoad snow removal is led by the Virginia Department of Transportation.

But what about sidewalks and other areas around your home or business?

The state and the county do not clear snow and ice from public walkways (sidewalks and trails). While not legally obligated, residents and businesses are asked to help keep sidewalks safe (homeowner associations may require members of their communities to clear walkways near their property). You should, as soon as possible, clear snow off the sidewalks in front of your property so that all pedestrians, especially school children, people with disabilities and the elderly, may walk securely as conditions improve.

Eight ways you can help:

1. Start a neighborhood team to help shovel snow for elderly and those unable to shovel. And please be aware of the risks for people with heart conditions.

2. Residents and businesses should ensure all accessible parking spaces for people with disabilities are cleared of snow and ice.

3. Don’t put trash cans and recycling bins out until after the plows have come.

4. If possible, remove parked cars from the road. Navigating around objects severely hampers a plow or heavy equipment driver’s ability to clear the roads and costs valuable time.

5. Clear snow away from fire hydrants in your neighborhood. Ask neighbors to adopt a fire hydrant and clear snow and ice away from all hydrants so that they are easily visible in the event of a fire.

6. Shovel snow into the yard instead of into the street to minimize the problem of the snowplow covering your driveway with snow after you’ve just shoveled it.

7. Keep the openings of storm drains clear of snow and debris to help alleviate potential flooding and to protect the environment. (At no time, however, should a resident attempt to enter a storm drain to remove debris.)

8. Volunteer to use or lend equipment such as small snow blowers for a community removal effort.

Have a Heart Condition? Please Be Careful With Snow Removal

Posted 9:55 a.m.

snow-shovelWe can’t stress the following information enough because the snow that’s expected to fall will be very heavy and wet. In addition to the weight of the snow, cold weather puts an extra strain on the heart. If you have heart disease or high blood pressure, follow your doctor’s advice about shoveling snow or performing other hard work in the cold. Otherwise, if you have to do heavy outdoor chores dress warmly and work slowly. Remember, your body is already working hard just to stay warm, so don’t overdo it.

While some heart attacks are sudden and intense, many heart attacks start slowly with mild pain or discomfort. If you or someone you are with begins to have chest discomfort, especially with one or more of the other signs of a heart attack, call 9-1-1 right away.

If you have family members or neighbors with heart conditions, remind them of this information; try to find someone to help remove the snow.

Track VDOT Snow Plowing Efforts

Posted 9:09 a.m.

The Virginia Department of Transportation handles snow removal on most roads in Fairfax County. If you’re wondering about the status of plowing on major and secondary roads, check out VDOT’s new snow plowing map.

VDOT Snow Removal Map

Learn how it works in this video:

Major routes are treated with chemicals and plowed once two inches have fallen. In subdivisions and other low volume roads hills and other trouble spots are treated with sand and plowed when two inches have accumulated.

In Northern Virginia, VDOT has one snow removal program for high volume roads such has Interstates 66, 95, 395, 495, Routes 1, 7, 15, 28, 50, Fairfax County Parkway, etc.), and another snow removal program for subdivisions (main thoroughfares in neighborhoods, residential streets and cul de sacs). Therefore, crews will be working on high volume roads and in subdivisions concurrently. Within each of these programs, roads with the highest traffic volumes are cleared first.

VDOT reminds motorists to use caution when driving during wintry weather. Drivers should:

• Check current weather, road conditions and traffic before traveling at www.511Virginia.org or by calling 511
• Slow down and allow for extra time to reach your destination
• Be aware of potentially icy areas such as shady spots and bridges
• Keep a safe distance of at least five seconds behind other vehicles and trucks that are plowing the road

Be Ready For Power Outages

Posted 7:27 a.m.

The forecast calls for heavy snow and wind, which may impact power lines and cause outages. Here is what you can do to be prepared:

  • Save important phone numbers to your phone or write them down, especially your power company.
  • Make sure you have a battery powered radio. We will work with radio media.
  • View tips from Dominion Virginia Power and NOVEC
    • Dominion Virginia Power outages and downed wires: 1-866-DOM-HELP (1-866-366-4357), TTY 711; also on your mobile device.
    • NOVEC (Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative) outages and downed wires: 1-888-335-0500 or 703-335-0500, TTY 711.
  • Stay away from downed wires as they may be live with electricity. Call 9-1-1 or police non-emergency number 703-691-2131, TTY 711, if you see downed lines.
  • Do not use candles as they may pose a fire threat.
  • Be sure to operate generators safely.

If you lose power, turn off major appliances such as heat pumps, water heaters and stoves. Unplug other appliances such as TVs, stereos, microwaves and computers. This will prevent damage to appliances and possible overloads when power is restored.

An electrical power outage will affect the safe storage of refrigerated and frozen foods. Perishable food such as meat, poultry, seafood, milk and eggs that are not stored properly refrigerated or frozen may cause illness if consumed.  In order to protect these foods from spoilage and save them for your use during the emergency, follow these guidelines.  

Take the Emergency Information Survey

Have you taken our emergency information survey yet? We want your input! 

As part of our review of the June 29 derecho storm, we’re asking for your help in completing a short survey. The survey focuses on a few key areas: 

  • Tools (such as CEAN) that you use to access emergency information. 
  • Non-government resources (such as media) you access for emergency information. 
  • County response to the June 29 derecho storm. 
  • Ways to improve information delivery, especially during power outages. 
  • Personal preparedness. 
  • And if you own a business, we have a set of questions for you. 

Here’s the survey link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/fairfaxemergencyinfo 

Thank you in advance for taking a few minutes to complete this important survey so we can learn from you and adapt our response for future incidents.

Residents and Businesses Encouraged to Provide Feedback Through Emergency Information Survey

The Fairfax County Office of Emergency Management (OEM) is asking for feedback from county residents and businesses to help assess the county’s response to the June 29 derecho storm that affected the county and the National Capital Region.  To find out about the county’s strengths as well as opportunity areas for improvement, we are asking you to fill out an online emergency information survey. It should only take a few minutes.

This survey is part of the official review of the storm response and input from residents and businesses will be invaluable. It will be used for OEM’s after-action report on the derecho event and how Fairfax County Government responded.

Emergency communications are critical before, during and after incidents that affect our community. A variety of entities and people are part of that process such as Fairfax County Government, utility companies, the commonwealth of Virginia, the private sector and others. This survey focuses on Fairfax County Government.

“We’re asking for every resident to provide input, as well as business owners,” said David McKernan, coordinator for the Office of Emergency Management. “It’s important for us as emergency planners to learn how this storm affected our residents, businesses and infrastructure so that we can implement corrective measures and plans for a better response for future storms.”

To take the survey, visit https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/fairfaxemergencyinfo.

June 29 Storm Report

Damage in Dranesville/Great Falls areaWhat a storm.

What we experienced on June 29 was not a common occurrence in Fairfax County, according to an analysis from the National Weather Service.

This storm tested all of us. You as individuals in your homes, many without power. Businesses. Utility companies. Nonprofits. Faith communities. And yes, us, the government.

At today’s Board of Supervisors meeting, County Executive Ed Long presented a report about the storm, county government’s response, issues with 9-1-1 and many more details about what we do behind the scenes that does not often get highlighted on our blog posts during storm response.

We invite you to review the report. Are there gaps and issues that need to be addressed? Yes, there are always ways to improve emergency response and our Office of Emergency Management will lead a formal after action report for the whole government.

So what can you do? What kind of family or business “report” should you consider? What steps can you take for the next time?

Prepare.

As many of you experienced the unfortunate combination of no power and a major heat wave, we as one community need to take steps to ensure we’re ready for the next storm, flood, terrorism act or whatever may come next.

Here are a few things to consider:

  1. Are you going to the grocery store this week? Pick up some extra water for your family. Stock up on batteries. Get some other basic supplies so you are ready.
  2. Learn some key digital preparedness tips. Many of us learned how dependent we are on communications during this storm when it was difficult to access the Internet and other tools. Get prepared digitally.
  3. Please make plans for the most vulnerable in your family or neighborhood. If there are special medical or social needs, register with us so we can contact you directly after an incident.
  4. Please make plans for your pets. Try to think of places they can go, supplies they need and more. Pets are such an important part of many of our lives, but they need plans, too.

There are many other ways to prepare and be ready for the next incident. We need you to be ready because we the government at any level (local, state or federal) may not be able to respond and help right away. The general idea is to be self sufficient for 72 hours. Check out these resources to help plan:

Emergency Operations Center Remains Activated

Posted 9:15 a.m.

Our emergency operations center remains activated this morning as we continue to monitor and help those affected by Friday’s storm. Virginia Dominion Power reports that less than 1 percent of its serviced homes in Fairfax County remain without power. We continue to coordinate with Dominion Virginia Power and receive the latest updates (view outage map).

It’s going to be very hot again today. Please follow these safety tips to stay hydrated and indoors if possible.

Storm Response Update

Posted 12:35 p.m.

Our emergency operations center is active again this afternoon into tonight. Today’s EOC commander, Roy Shrout, provides a status update on the storm response, including 16,375 Dominion Virginia Power and 8 NOVEC customers without power.

 

Storm Aftermath Update: Tuesday Afternoon

Posted 7 p.m.

A state of emergency remains in effect for Fairfax County and Virginia as a result of the severe storms that impacted our area Friday night.

Here’s what you need to know:

July 4

9-1-1 and Non-Emergency Numbers

Power

  • In Fairfax County, 32,249 Dominion customers and 47 NOVEC customers are without power as of 5 p.m. today  
    • Dominion Virginia Power outages and downed wires: 1-866-DOM-HELP (1-866-366-4357), TTY 711; view outage map
    • NOVEC (Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative) outages and downed wires: 1-888-335-0500 or 703-335-0500, TTY 711; view outage reports
  • Stay away from downed wiresas they may be live with electricity.
  • Do not use candles as they may pose a fire threat.
  • Be sure to operate generators safely.

Roads

  • A number of roads (PDF) are still impacted by damage from the storm. The list is updated as information becomes available.
  • Treat intersections with traffic lights that are out or flashing as four-way stops; the driver on the right has the right-of-way. Traffic rules during power outages.
  • For the latest info, call VDOT at 511 or 1-800-FOR-ROAD.

Tree and Debris Removal

Water

  • There are no water restrictions in place.
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